Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Warning from Whewell

If the mathematician is repelled from speculations on morals or politics, on the beautiful or the right, because the reasonings which they involve have not the mathematical precision and conclusiveness, he will remain destitute of much of the most valuable knowledge which man can acquire. And if he attempts to mend the matter by giving to treatises on morals, or politics, or criticism, a form and a phraseology borrowed from the very few tolerably complete physical sciences which exist, it will be found that he is compelled to distort and damage the most important truths, so as to deprive them of their true shape and import, in order to force them into their places in his artificial system.

William Whewell, Astronomy and General Physics, quoted in John Henderson, Early Mathematical Economics: William Whewell and the British Case, Rowman and Littlefield (Lanham, Maryland: 1996) p. 70.

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